CLEVELAND — If you ask Sister Corita Ambro of Saint Augustine Parish in Cleveland, the need was already great for the annual Thanksgiving meal she serves at the Hunger Center on Howard Avenue.
Now add in the COVID-19 pandemic, and that's a lot on Sister Ambro's plate.
She's not worried about the extra need, she just needs volunteers to make it happen. The Hunger Center hopes to pack at least 13,000 meals this year, more than ever, thanks to the growing need from the pandemic. Some people will still be able to eat at the Hunger Center in-person, but capacity there is one-fourth what it was in the past.
Sister Ambro says the parish is also doing more deliveries than ever before this year, since many people are confined to their homes or staying at shelters. The parish is doing about 600 deliveries a day.
That need will also be felt on Thanksgiving, since the usual Baron Bus service that brings people to and from the center is not operational. So now, Sister Ambro is not just looking for volunteers to pack dinners, but drive them to those who need it.
Sister Ambro says some volunteers have stepped up for about 400 meals, and TownHall restaurant will do about 500, but that 13,000 is the remainder. Those who want to pack the meals would do so at the Hunger Center and two other kitchens on Thanksgiving. Those who want to deliver the meals would also start at the Hunger Center. Meals will be distributed to people in Cleveland, Lorain, Huron County and Youngstown.
The number to call to volunteer is 216-781-5530. You can also visit the Hunger Center website to learn more, here.
Sister Ambro adds the Hunger Center is always in need of more food. Their pantry is currently looking for canned vegetables, ground beef (or other easy-to-use meats), pasta sauces and salad dressings. The same number can be called for those.
As for Sister Ambro, she is doing well during the pandemic. She just hopes she can serve those she loves like normal, and is feeling blessed by the opportunity to do so.
"And that's one of the things I can't get over, is the gratefulness of those people as they come in every day," she says. "It's 'thank you Sister, you're keeping us alive, thank you Sister, the food's wonderful.' It might not be the best food on a particular day, but they love it, and they come in and they eat it and they're so grateful. It's such a great thing to see the gratefulness of people, and it makes me feel so grateful to God for my vocation, for being here at Saint Augustine's, and being able to help."